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Master of Space and Time
Rudy Rucker
Thunder's Mouth Press, 229 pages

Master of Space and Time
Rudy Rucker
Born in Louisville, KY, in 1946, Rudy Rucker studied at Swarthmore College and got his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Rutgers University. He initially worked as a mathematics professor, and is now a professor of computer science at San Jose State University. His main career is as an author; he has published 24 books. He is known for his Philip K. Dick-award-winning *Ware series (Soft*, Wet*, Free*, and Real*). Freeware is under option to Directed Evolution Neworks.

Rudy Rucker's Home Page
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Frek and the Elixir
SF Site Review: The Hacker And The Ants, Version 2.0
SF Site Review: Realware
SF Site Review: Seek!
SF Site Review: White Light and Master of Space & Time and The 57th Franz Kafka
SF Site Review: Freeware

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Ian Nichols

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This is a reprint of a novel written in 1984, and there are elements of the crazy 80s right throughout the novel. Or, I should say, there are elements of the psychedelic 60s. For those who can remember the wonderful glory days of the 60s as they sit in their rocking chairs, an almost inescapable element was the development of alternative comics, and foremost among those who bent and shaped the venerable form was one R. Crumb. His drug-crazed, anarchic, sexually profligate protagonists were iconic of the times.

Great days; great days.

This novel reads like a head-on collision between The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Kurt Vonnegut. With a soundtrack by Frank Zappa.

The story is a reworking of the three wishes myth, in modern whiz-bang technology. Dr. Joe Fletcher and his friend, Harry Gerber, build a blunzer, a device that gives them three wishes. This is not any ordinary techno-genie, though. It operates by injecting gluons, red, blue or yellow, right through the skull into the brain. But these are no ordinary gluons; they're fried in a microwave first. Wish fulfillment through flash-fried gluons. You can just see the Freaks getting down on that one.

The technobabble that supports the idea is fascinating. Gluons are blended into Planck Juice, injected into a one-meter wave guide and instructed that this is now the Planck length, the length at which uncertainty takes over. Now, I don't pretend to understand the physics of this, but it sure as hell sounds good. From this fantasia it is a small leap to being able to control Space and Time, as the title says, through controlling uncertainty.

The first wish, apart from providing Joe with lots of money and turning Harry's girlfriend, Sondra into a copy of a movie star with angelic wings, is to open doors into six different rooms, almost like an extended Disneyland. The trio take the door into the Looking-Glass world. The trouble is, that the world is a cultural reversal of our world, governed by a reversed Harry Gerber, called Garry Herber. That would be bad enough, but Herber is a pseudo-mystic hard-core religious revivalist who has gained strange powers since he was sent to the electric chair. Oh; and he's a naked brain with attached spinal cord that buds and infects people to take them over, sort of as in Heinlein's The Puppet Masters.

After drunken gun battles and desperate chases, Joe and Harry save the Looking-Glass world from Herber. The red gluons wear off and the control of uncertainty goes with it. But there's a problem; Herber himself has got into our world and is busy taking people over. Our three heroes must find a way to wish him away. The red gluons don't work anymore, so they have to use the blue ones, which only give them four minutes to fix the world which, by this time, includes giant fritter trees and rampaging pork-chop bushes. Four minutes to save the world.

Joe takes the hit this time. He solves all the problems of the world but, in one final impulsive wish, turn himself into yet another copy of the movie goddess while turning Sondra back the way she was before, as she desired. That's all fine, but there are problems that stem from the problems, and Joe hasn't even thought about those. In order to solve these second-order problems, Joe and Nancy, his wife, have to track down some yellow gluons. These are possessed by Tri Lu, a sex-obsessed experimental scientist. He gives the gluons to Joe for one million dollars and a session with Joe's goddess body. Then Joe is ready to save the world once again.

The trouble is, this time they only have a tiny amount of the gluons, enough for two and two-fifths seconds of control. It took two hours to produce the original problems, four minutes to try to solve them, and now they have a little over two seconds to wish everything better. Nancy takes the shot this time, and the solution she comes up with fits in perfectly with the pseudo-science of the novel. Everyone winds up happy, so to speak, and world is a better place, so to speak.

The novel is fast and funny, a glorious joyride through space and time and weird science. Parts of it sound as if they were scripted by the Marx Brothers and parts by Vonnegut at his most acidic. There may be some serious point to this novel, but I couldn't find it. It doesn't matter. It's hilarious, and that's enough point for me.

Copyright © 2006 Ian Nichols

Ian Nichols is studying for his Masters degree at the University of Western Australia, and is fortunate enough to be studying in the area he most enjoys; Fantasy and Science Fiction.


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